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Sex differences in the course of depression: evidence from a longitudinal study of a representative sample of the Belgian population.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, University of Gent, Belgium. piet.bracke@rug.ac.be

Abstract

Outcome studies of major depression indicate high rates of relapse and chronicity, and social role theories imply that chronicity should be greater for women, together suggesting that the well-known sex difference in depression is, at least partially, the result of differences in chronicity. Due to a lack of prospective longitudinal research answers to this empirical question are missing. Furthermore, the results of the few available surveys of the general population are inconsistent, showing either higher chronicity for older women or a lack of sex differences in the overall course of depression. Using data from three waves of the Panel Study of Belgian Households (complete data for 3204 women and 2907 men, aged 16 years and older) sex differences in the persistence of depressive behavior are estimated. Depression is measured using a self-report inventory on three occasions separated by intervals of 1 year (1992, 1993, 1994). Results show a significant influence of sex, other sociodemographic characteristics, and depression severity at baseline on depression persistence. Women experience more symptoms for a longer period of time, a difference that can be partially ascribed to sex differences in employment status, education and marital status. The findings are discussed.

PMID:
9766168
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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